The Jitterbug

The Jitterbug is a common Swing dance with added twirls and energetic acrobatics. It is a quicker West Coast Swing, or a toned-down Lindy-hop. The name comes from the idea that dancers move in a fashion not unlike an alcoholic’s jittery tremors. The dance gained popularity in the 1920s, and to this day it makes any dancer or spectator smile with delight.

If you are looking for a social dance that is tons of fun, then learning the Jitterbug is for you. Instructors at Arthur Murray Dance Studios are trained to teach dance students of all different levels and aspirations. Whether you stick to the basics or become an expert at the most enthusiastic turns, the Jitterbug will have you looking for Swing dance events in your area every Friday night.

What exactly is the Jitterbug?

The Jitterbug is in six-count time, but technically only four steps. It is known as “single-time swing”. 

On count one, take a small step to the side. 

Count two, lengthen that first step. 

Count three, step back to the side. 

Count four lengthens step three.

 Count five and six, do a rock step to the back and then forward. 

When you master the basic steps and turns, you are ready to hit the floor. The Jitterbug is a spot dance, so it is often used on a crowded dance floor.

What sets the Jitterbug apart is the freedom for dancers to add their own dance steps, including the Cuddle Step, Triple Step, and Jitterbug Turns. Arthur Murray Dance Studios is the best place to learn the Jitterbug because we begin with the basic steps and then teach a wide variety of advanced moves. The beauty of the Jitterbug is that it allows freedom of dance and permits the dancer to improvise their own “shakes.”

The History of the Jitterbug

All the dances we teach are rife with deep historical influence. Jitterbug is no different. The word “jitterbug” was first publicly used in Cab Calloway’s song entitled “Call of the Jitter Bug,” recorded in January 1934. The Jitterbug was most popular among the African American community in Harlem, New York, who incorporated movements of their African heritage. These movements naturally involved quick legwork and a mobile upper body.

During this time, Benny Goodman was signed to perform on the “National Biscuit Saturday Night” radio broadcasts in New York. He played standard popular tunes during the day, but at night, he played his own music. The time difference allowed young Californians to tune into Goodman’s late night music hours. During the summer of 1934, the band went on a cross-country tour. Playing his standard tunes on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Goodman received little response from his sparse audiences until he hit California, where young adults lined the streets to hear and dance to Goodman’s music.

His music ignited the all-night ‘jitterbugging’ at West Coast dance halls, such as Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland, CA and the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, CA. The Jitterbug even spread internationally during World War II when American troops Jitterbugged in France. Within a year, the craze spread across Europe. Back on the East Coast, upon hearing about Goodman’s achievements in California, Paramount Theater and the Savoy Ballroom in New York featured his music, and the Jitterbug has since become a remarkable sensation.

How We Teach The Jitterbug At Arthur Murray


Are you looking for a fun date night? Or social activities to meet new friends? Being a student at Arthur Murray entitles you to your choice of private lessons, group lessons, practice parties, competitions, and black-tie dinners. 

Our social events are a great opportunity for both beginners and advanced dancers to practice and enjoy watching moves from our instructors. Every dance instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Studios has years of dance experience. Many have danced recreationally or professionally since childhood, and all have undergone extensive training prior to teaching. They are passionate about sharing their love of dance with you, and all the fun, challenging and social elements that dancing brings. We utilize a comparative style of teaching called the Arthur Murray Method, which enables students to learn the dance steps, but more importantly the skills needed for dancing.

Come and See for Yourself!

Arthur Murray Dance Studios’ talented and passionate instructors encourage students of all ages and skill levels to join us for our beginner or advanced dance lessons. Call one of our Southern California studios today to schedule your private or group dance lesson. Just wear comfortable shoes and loose clothing because you will move and shake a lot!

Since each of us has a different learning style, we will pair you with one of our expert instructors to get you on the dance floor as soon as possible. In no time, you’ll be ready for our social Swing nights, which remain one of our favorite events.


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